Skip to comments.Had A Just Awesome Kairos Team Retreat This Weekend; Reflections On Same
Posted on 09/09/2006 5:31:00 PM PDT by sionnsar
I didnt realize how spiritually empty I was until I was filled this weekend by spending time with the Kairos team for Wade 22. It ultimately made me reflect on how many wonderful Kairos volunteers Ive encountered across the state of Louisiana during my tour as state chair. People from every Christian denomination, willing to set aside their particular denominational beliefs to join with fellow Christians to do something daring for the Gospel - to actually heed the literal words of the Gospel and Jesus example in his ministry to Dismas on the cross and go to prison and truly be inclusive - to embrace those that society has deemed unfit to live within society and share the Gospel with them.
Ive previously shared my experiences with Kairos and doing other ministries within prisons on the HOBD Listserv. Interestingly, Ive had two responses from liberals that have generally arrived in the form of questions. I will address these in turn, as Ive thought about them this weekend.
If you can set aside all manner of denominational differences to minister in prison, why cant you set aside differences in theology to remain happily in the Episcopal Church?
An important point is made here. I am able to set aside Marian theology, the Eucharist (both its theology and its centrality to Christianity), speaking in tongues, disagreements over Baptism (agreeing solely that it is important and must be done), apostolic orders (including priesthood and deaconate, and apostolic succession, although Kairos does recognize folks recongized by their churches as clergy), to do ministry with other Christians. These are things that either are central to Anglicaism and the Episcopal version of Anglicanism or permissive in Anglicanism as a general rule.
Ive basically decided that the main differences I have with the Episcopal Church that are irresolveable have to do with Jesus Christ and the authority of scripture. Without those two things, the rest of the issues become absolutely irrelevant despite agreement or permissiveness on the same. Further, agreement on those two things can render the rest of the issues irrelevant for jointly pursuing ministry together.
Then, there is the second question, which is more poigniant.
How can you embrace people in prison, rapists, murderers, child molesters, muggers and drug dealers, and not embrace gay and lesbian Episcopalians who are law abiding contributors to the church?
The folks in prison I visit and with whom I share the Gospel and call them brothers and sisters in Christ have one big thing in common with me. They have messed up royally in their lives, have begun to recognize this, and have further recognized their need for salvation from their sins. We arent trying to negotiate a better deal with God - accepting Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, confessing our sins, and receiving absolution from them is enough. No one is trying to have their sins blessed or called not a sin. No one seeks to have their lifestyle affirmed despite what the Gospel says.
For anyone who would wander into a Kairos weekend, a prayer meeting, a bible study, or a church, there should be welcome, just as the Archbishop of Canterbury said recently. In all honesty, based on my experience with Christians of just about every denomination, this welcome is present in the vast majority of Christian churches theologically. Now, not every member or local church is going to be welcoming. Yes, people and even whole parishes/churches fall short. However, from a theological standpoint, Christians know what the Gospel is, and offer salvation in Jesus Christ to those who seek it. That, in my mind, is what Christianity is all about.
Ive spent many a Kairos weekend with homosexual people. Homosexuality, both consensual and non-consensual, is absolutely rampant in prison. Ive experienced men who turned away from homosexuality, even having to get a transfer to another prison to get away from a partner, and who are living new lives in Jesus Christ. Ive also experienced men who refused to turn away from homosexuality, rejected Kairos because their homosexuality wasnt affirmed, or simply said this is all nice, but my homosexuality wasnt affirmed, despite the fact that you have affirmed me a child of God. For some, homosexuality has become an end all, be all, phenomenon. When the end all, be all, isnt God, Christianity can become highly problematic.
I think this boils down to a difference in approach. One of humility toward God, Jesus and the cross, vs. one of self-aggrandizement. One of allowing the Holy Spirit to convict you; another of claiming the Holy Spirit affirms your own convictions.
That, for me, is the crux of my problems with the Episcopal Church.
So, Im off next weekend with fellow Episcopalians, Methodists, Baptists, Pentecostals, and non-denominatal Christians to Wade Correctional Center to what will surely be an incredible time with God.
I will leave spiritually filled, yet further heartbroken over my own church, because of my experience. In these last three years, Ive had the incredible experience of seeing what the Church can be like, repeatedly, in many places. While I wouldnt trade this experience, seeing it not happen in my own church is my heartbreak.
I've done a handful of Kairos retreat programs. Excellent programs... but one thing...
>>It ultimately made me reflect on how many wonderful Kairos volunteers Ive encountered across the state of Louisiana during my tour as state chair. <<
I sure they didn't tell the prisoners ("residents") that they had an appointment with the state chair...
Thanks for posting this Kairos piece, Sionn.
No, dangus, inmates, residents or "participants" are not told what "rank" or "title" a volunteer holds within Kairos. We are all equal at the foot of the Cross of Jesus Christ. We have all sinned and come short of the Glory of God. In my experiences working at base camp for the Kairos near my home and working a Kairos Outside (the weekend for the families of inmates who make a weekend inside) I have never seen anyone "lord it" (or lady it) over anyone else - especially a volunteer over an inmate, or a volunteer over another volunteer. That kind of conduct is not acceptable among volunteers. Most prisoners know that trying to justify their sin as not being as bad as another's is so much phoney baloney.
Kairos prison ministry (in whatever form it is exercised) is a powerful program not only for inmates and their families, but for the institution (staff and other inmates) and the greater "prison" community. The fact is that the families of inmates are "doing time" also. For them sometimes the negatives outweigh the positives. For instance, with the breadwinner or the mother inside, the children either become wards of the state and end up on the morass of state funded foster care, or they are parked with relatives who are stressed emotionally, spiritually and financially by the extra burden, or they are left to "fend for themselves" as best they can. This is where the greater faith community comes in. Instead of relying on social service agencies, volunteers from local area churches (some not even involved in Kairos) offer child care while adults have visits, or some offer transportation for entire families s they can visit their loved ones inside. In at least one case an inmate was received into membership in a local church even though she was unable to attend services while inside. A volunteer from that local church provided tape recorded sermons, a weekly visit, Bible Study booklets and a listening ear. The miracle of change in that one woman's life was a glowing example of the transforming power of the Gospel as lived by the local body.
Many inmates have stated that upon release they have not always found a ready welcome in local churches after they are released. Many secretly admit they miss the fellowship of others who know (and accept) the truth about themselves and hold the hope of the good news that Christ loves them and redeemed them. Too often people "on the street" are too concerned with "doing the work of evangelism" and they forget the part about "being" the body of Christ - His visible presence in the world that so desperately needs Him.
Kairos is just one among many examples of "being" and bringing Christ to those who need Him. I highly recommend the work and ministry of Kairos. The cookies are often the only tangible evidence of the love of Christ some of these inmates ever see. Spread the love!
I'm sorry, Libre... Apparently you didn't get the really bad joke. Probably shouldn't have made it anyway. Let's just say that the state chair's nickname was probably Sparky.
LOL! (LoM, that was a pun -- think "Ol' Sparky"...)
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